The Key to Meditation: Treating It As Practice

Photo by  Matt Bowden  on  Unsplash

Photo by Matt Bowden on Unsplash

It can be hard to stick with meditation when you're wrestling with your thoughts every time you sit down. But what if you thought about that time as practice, rather than trying to achieve a particular state of mind? Here's a helpful reframing of what it means to practice meditating, from WITHIN teacher Adam Moskowitz.

Sitting still, you try to follow the breath. The mind meanders as usual, getting tugged to memories, and all kinds of woulda-coulda-shoulda versions of the past, suddenly skips ahead to future ambitions, anxieties, hopes, hypotheticals, and then, out of nowhere, a great big critical analysis of your whole life. In under a minute your mind has basically designed an extremely intricate PowerPoint presentation illustrating what it means to be you. It’s bursting at the seams with opinion, judgment and certainty. Oh, and the graphic design effects are some of the best available!

Wait, what? You’re supposed to be meditating? ARE you meditating? Let's be honest.

Sometimes, when you sit down to meditate, it just feels like you’re at some weird amusement park, being forced to get on all the rides. And you’ve never really been a fan of rides. 

One of the reasons meditation can feel challenging is that we often forget that what we experience during practice is actually not a problem. Yet we’re pretty well trained to make it a problem with all our beliefs about what our experience should feel like. It’s totally common to judge, judge again, then even judge our minds for judging. Whew, that sounds exhausting.

It's called a practice because we’re gradually getting used to the fact that the mind has a mind of its own.

Thoughts, like itches, just happen. The intention of the meditation practice is to let go of resistance to any inner experience, including thought. By softening to what is, we can see things more clearly.

Many people define meditation as familiarization. Once we begin to buy into this way of understanding, it becomes a bit easier to let go of the need for results. When we let go, the results, or the "fruits of practice," have a funny way of finding their way into our lives.

A teacher once recommended that I periodically ask myself, Is there anything about this moment that you are not fully accepting? I don’t know if it was the language, the timing, or both, but I felt like I was hit by lightning.

Since then, this inquiry has been really useful for me in my life, whether struggling through a challenge at work, standing in front of the sink washing dishes, or sitting on the cushion. I hope it's useful to you, too.

Adam teaches our morning & midday classes on Tuesdays. After years of helping kids and teachers learn mindfulness at their schools, he's bringing his practical perspective to students at WITHIN. Join him for a class this week!